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Inertia Report: Is the BMW M3/M4 Still the Benchmark?

Joshua Is a self-proclaimed Driving God with an almighty Forza Game Rank.

The F80, F82 & F83 BMW M3 & M4 Coupe & Convertible


In The Beginning...

The BMW 3-Series has been the benchmark in the upper entry-level luxury car segment for as long as I remembered. The German reign of terror has lasted for the past 35 years. It was in the first year of this 35-year reign that a legend was born: the BMW M3, a car the company made because it had to. The car that was just a variant of another car, but became an ICON all to its own. Fast forward to 2017 though and the M3 looks like it lost the luster that made it the benchmark. The problem with being the benchmark is that everyone will copy you and eventually, someone will do you better than you. Such is the case with the M3.

2015 BMW M4 vs 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS: Proof That Things Can Change


The Fall...

For starters, let's talk about a car you normally wouldn't cross shop an M3/M4 with. The Camaro SS 1LE. For $46,180, you can have an American V8 muscle car that can keep up or go faster than an M3 around a track for cheaper. For comparison, an M4 starts at $65,500 and that's without all the go fast bits to get the most out of it. 4,750 for the Competition package, some trim, paint, carbon fiber go fast bits and a nice leather interior, and we are looking at an $88,000 car. Yikes. I'm not nitpicking about being comfortable with my speed. So I'd pick the Camaro and use the leftover money to make it lighter. But say you do care about having the finest luxury and going fast. GM still has something better.

The Cadillac ATS-V is a $62,850 car. And optioned correctly for performance and it’s still only $73,875. Compared to that 88K M4, bargain. And even stock, it has more power. It even has more power than the BMW M4 WITH the Competition package.

And the other cars in the segment are growing pretty well. At $73,500, The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is the new kid on the block. And it's probably the best kid on the block. With 505 HP, it makes more than any M3/M4.

The Mercedes-AMG C63 makes 469 HP at $66,100. Need more power? one is offered with 503 HP for $73,700. Both aren't lacking in luxury, Mercedes offers arguably the best interior in the business. And add 3K to both options prices if you want to get rid of two doors for coupes.

Audi has made a new RS5 which looks promising performance wise.

Lexus offers the RC-F for $64,165. And with 467 HP, it's an interesting option for a naturally aspirated V8 in a segment loitered with I-6s, V-6s, and turbochargers.

So this is to let people know, you no longer need to file chapter 11 just to have the chance to drive an M3/M4 for a few months. There are other fish in the sea. Commit #Carpologamy.

2019 BMW 3-Series Testing at "The Ring"


There is Hope...

Lastly, the BMW's saving grace is that it keeps coming out with trim levels to stay relevant. With the stock M3/M4 only making 425 HP, BMW made the M4 GTS, a 493 HP, hardcore, track-focused variant; the M3/M4 competition package, boosting power from 425 HP to 444 HP; and the all-new M4 CS, which boosts power more to 454 HP. But it's clear to see that BMW is barely holding on to a crown on which it used to have an iron grip. And even though I have no doubt that the 2019 M3/M4 redesign will reclaim its title, that's a year off. And in the car world, you live in the now. Every corner in a flash. One quarter mile at a time.

© 2017 Joshua Nightshade


Joshua Nightshade (author) from NY, New York on May 07, 2019:

Dear Zach

We are not talking about tunes. If that was the case, the same argument you made applies more to the Camaro mentioned in the above argument and we will be here all day. The average buyer won't modify the car anyway. We are talking stock. And bone-stock, its already been proven that the Camaro is the bargain speed value, comparable to an M3 around a racetrack. The ATS-V gives it a serious run for its money. And the Gulia is simply a flat-out better car. The M3 is better than the RC-F as a performance car but lacks the emotion that car (and the AMG for that matter) give off. There is a lack of driver feedback amongst the various other little issues. The other glaring issue is pricing vs performance when compared to the competition. It wasn't just about power, I mentioned pricing too. BMW has work to do, something they themselves acknowledged as the new 3-series has better driver handling dynamics than its predecessor. The new M3 should be good and will hopefully make more power to become the BENCHMARK again. But to quote you

"The S55 engine found in the M3/M4 is in another league from anything you mentioned in this article. The ENTIRE car is set up to handle 600+hp on factory parts."

I don't know any factory made 550-600 HP BMW M3/M4 that manages to keep its driver dynamics and still take a corner just as well as its lower horsepower counterpart while sharing basically the same engine. Meanwhile, I know a Camaro with a Chevy LS/LT, which is in the same league as the S55, sounds better, is more reliable in even the most unreliable of hands and from the factory there is a version that makes 650 HP. Its called the Camaro ZL1 and ZL1 1LE. And that's without a tune. If you need more persuasion, an M2 is a better option. VIR lap times prove it.


Zach on May 07, 2019:

You are comparing the cars based on horsepower and claim no M3/M4 can eclipse 500hp. That is false. A basic tune with an E85 mixture can produce well in the 550-600+hp range. Thats a $600 tune, and the M3 requires NO extra mods to make that kind of power. It is also severely underrated from the factory. The S55 engine found in the M3/M4 is in another league from anything you mentioned in this article. The ENTIRE car is set up to handle 600+hp on factory parts.

Joshua Nightshade (author) from NY, New York on December 06, 2017:

It was a comparison test done by Motor Trend where the Camaro actually won. And that Camaro wasn't even a 1LE so it may be faster than an M4. I have to look at Peaks and willows lap times

WheelScene from U.S.A. on December 05, 2017:

Great article, thanks for sharing! I like how you compared the M4 to the Camaro, that is an uncommon comparison that I did not think about. If you compare the numbers such as you did it might be worth trying both!

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